Moon Bin, known professionally as Moonbin, was reportedly found unresponsive by his manager in the Gangnam neighbourhood of Seoul.
Police are currently investigating the death, though local authorities have said there is no evidence of foul play. A police officer in Seoul told the Korean outlet Yonhap News that Moon Bin’s death appears to be a suicide.
“On April 19, Astro member Moon Bin unexpectedly left our world and became a star in the sky,” reads a statement in Korean from the music agency Fantagio.
The music agency did not provide any additional information about Moon Bin’s death but said the label’s other artists are in a state of “very deep sadness and shock.”
Fantagio asked fans to “refrain from speculative and malicious reports” in favour of respecting the Moon family’s privacy.
Moon Bin’s funeral will be as private as possible with family, friends and colleagues in attendance, the statement reads.
Astro debuted in 2016 after they appeared on a popular reality TV show. The group quickly found success in South Korea and Japan and was listed on Billboard’s top 10 list of new K-pop groups that year, with the magazine praising them for their “bright, synthpop sound that won over K-pop lovers from around the world.”
Astro originally had six members, but one left the group in February 2023. The group has released three full-length albums and 10 EPs since their debut.
Before joining Astro, Moon Bin was a child actor and model. He held a minor role in the K-drama Boys Over Flowers, which was hugely popular in Asia.
Moon Bin’s sister, Moon Sua, is a K-pop artist as well and is a member of the girl band Billlie. Moon Bin was also a member of the subgroup Moonbin & Sanha, alongside Astro member Yoon San-ha.
Several South Korean singers and actors have died by suicide in recent years, which has touched off soul-searching about harsh competition in the fast-growing entertainment industry, an abusive online culture and failure by management to address the mental health problems of their stars.
Most K-pop stars join entertainment agencies at a very young age — many in their early teens — and train intensively for several years before making a public debut. K-pop stars are often held to very high standards in the public eye and are frequently scrutinized online for their appearance, dress and behaviour.
In 2019, popular K-pop star Goo Hara of the group Kara died by a suspected suicide at 28 years old. The year prior, she sued her ex-boyfriend for physical assault and threatening to blackmail the star with a sexually explicit video. He was given a suspended jail term, but Goo Hara’s career and reputation remained tarnished until her death.
Just over a month before Goo Hara died, a member of the F(x) girl group, Sulli, also died by a suspected suicide amid a longtime struggle with online harassment and bullying. Sulli was 25.
Sulli was good friends with Kim Jonghyun, member of SHINee, one of Korea’s most successful boybands, who died of a suspected suicide in 2017. During his career, Kim Jonghyun was a rare voice in the K-pop industry who openly discussed his struggles with depression and mental illness. He was 27.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, South Korea has the highest suicide rate of any country, at about 26 per every 100,000 people. Mental health and therapy remain stigmatized in South Korean society.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
— With files from The Associated Press